Michigan workers were dealt a staggering blow last year when Gov. Rick Snyder (R) signed a so-called “right to work” law to gut unions. Democratic lawmakers introduced legislation on Friday that may help combat the negative effects of that law by raising the minimum wage from $7.40 to $10 an hour. Minimum wage in the state has not been raised since 2008.
The bill would gradually increase wages over the next 3 years, and could help mitigate income inequality, which is on the rise in Michigan:
Supporters of the bill, like Democratic Reps. John Switalksi and Rashida Tlaib, said that raising the minimum wage would offer people “a chance at a better life” while narrowing the inequality gap. Dave Woodward, who launched an online petition at www.raisemichigan.com, said that more than 70 percent of people living in Michigan are in favor of increasing the minimum wage.
Woodward said: “Right now, minimum wage workers and middle class families are doing their taxes and they’re finding their taxes going up because of policies by Gov. Snyder and Republicans in Lansing…It’s long overdue that Michigan families get a raise and raising the minimum wage helps do that.”
Currently, a minimum wage worker needs to work 80 hours a week in order to afford the rent for a two-bedroom apartment. Republicans claim the increase would hurt businesses’ ability to hire more people. Nevertheless, more than 70 percent of Michigan residents are in favor of increasing the minimum wage.
As Michigan’s poverty level rises, tax hikes on low-income workers coupled with increased cost of living have hit residents hard. Meanwhile, the state’s union-busting law crippled workers’ wage negotiating power and will likely cost all Michigan workers, union or otherwise, $1,500 a year in wages. Unfortunately, the national trend is to suppress wages, not raise them; since 2011, 105 wage suppression bills have been introduced in 31 states.